The traditional Vietnamese wedding dress is very different from the style that is currently considered traditional in the United States. They are elaborate, just as the American wedding gowns are but in a very distinctive way.
After the end of the Nguyen Dynasty (the last ruling family of Vietnam), the wedding attire of Vietnam become primarily the elaborate Ao dai style. It originated from the traditional court wear of the ladies from the Nguyen Dynasty era.
The Ao dai started out as a tight fitting tunic made of colorful silk. It is worn over pantaloons made from matching silk fabrics. It was the primary dress of the Vietnamese women throughout the 18th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries it caught the attention of French designers and was changed into a five paneled aristocratic style gown. It’s popularity in Vietnam continued to grow and in the 1950’s the Ao dai style was adopted as the national costume.
Today, most brides wear the Ao dai in brilliant reds or pinks. They are highly decorated, often using such symbols as the phoenix.The phoenix represents new life or a new rising so this may be used to mean that the wedding itself is a blessed new beginning. The groom will sometimes wear the same traditional Ao dai style in a less elaborate design and most often in the color blue. In more modern times however the grooms have begun to wear a simple matching tailored suit. Even though as previously stated the brides usually wear pink or red, there are variations and some brides choose other colors. A growing favorite is a brilliant yellow or gold that looks stunning next to a groom usually dressed in white.
The headdress of the bride is considered just as important as the gown. It is called a Khan dong. This is nothing like the traditional veil of the United States. It is a circular style of headwear that almost appears to be a hat that is made upside down. It turns up instead of down. It has an opening in the top so that it sits perfectly on the brides head. It appears to circle the brides face like a halo. It comes in many gorgeous colors and matches the dress. The groom does not wear any headdress. The day is considered the brides and she should outshine all others in attendance.
The silk fabrics used in making the traditional Vietnamese wedding attire are some of the most beautiful in the world. There are some very famous designers now using them for their own designs.
|The Ao Dai is the most recognizable traditional dress seen in Vietnam, and though western style clothes are popular, this beautifully styled outfit is still actively worn throughout the country during Tet, at work, to weddings, and other national celebrations.|
The word Ao Dai means ‘Long Dress,’ and is a two piece garment. The bottom part consists of loose pants that reach the ankles. The top is a tight fitting tunic with long sleeves and a high collar with two panels that float loosely down the front and back.
The Ao Dai is famously known to ‘cover everything, but hide
nothing,’ and it perfectly accentuates the long, lithe body possessed by Vietnamese women. When choosing to wear the Ao Dai it pays to have a similarly shaped figure.
Historically the Ao Dai is believed to come from China, when the newly crowned king Nguyen Phuc Khoat decreed in 1744 that the Ming Chinese style of dress would be adopted by all his subjects. Since then, both men and women have worn different variations of the Ao Dai. It has never been an official ceremonial dress, and has always been used an everyday outfit.
Now, with western fashions popular in Vietnam, the once ‘everyday’ Ao Dai are now only worn at special occasions and by office staff in companies that require it. It has experienced a revival in recent years, and its extremely common now to see women navigating traffic on bicycles and motorbikes, expertly lifting the long panels away from greasy spokes and gears.
Men no longer wear the garment as much as women do, confining it to traditional weddings the normal photo shoots popular with Vietnamese all over the country.
The variations in colors of this unique national costume is amazing: high school girls wear white ones, female cabin crew on Vietnam Airlines wear red ones, and bank employees wear ones matching their company’s logo. It’s also common for older women to wear Ao Dai to be made of a velvety material and accented with a rope of pearls.
The style of today’s Ao Dai remains close to the antique originals, and hasn’t changed very much in the last 100 years; however in the last thirty years changes have been made to the pleating and the lengths of the collar.
Many Vietnamese designers are now reinterpreting the Ao Dai, experimenting with new materials, decorations, and adornments. Many of their studios can be found in Saigon and Hanoi, with prices ranging up to several hundred dollars for one of their creations.
For foreign women traveling in Vietnam, Ao Dai makes excellent handmade souvenirs. Shopping for material in Saigon’s Ben Thanh market is a good excursion and you will make friends along the way by asking for suggestions and tailors to recommend. Numerous tailors can be found in Saigon, Hoi An and Hanoi that specialize in making excellent Ao Dais. Most of them can make the outfit in 24 hours or less. What better way is there to remember your fantastic trip to Vietnam? You’ll be reminded of the beautiful country every time you put your Ao Dai on.